USC shocks Penn State with memorable Rose Bowl comeback

PASADENA, Calif. -- Some games should never end.

And while at times it seemed that actually might be the case for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, try to find someone who would have had a problem with that. Two days after the College Football Playoff provided a pair of duds for neutral fans, the "Granddaddy of Them All" stepped in to provide one of the most exciting editions in its 103-game history.

Even before USC kicker Matt Boermeester hit a game-winning 46-yard field goal as time expired to give the Trojans a 52-49 win against Penn State, the game had it all.

Comeback? Check. Two, actually.

First, Penn State erased a 27-14 first-half deficit to take a commanding 49-35 second-half lead. Then it was USC’s turn. Despite losing arguably its best player, Adoree' Jackson, to an ankle injury and its leading tackler, Cam Smith, to a targeting ejection, the Trojans wouldn’t go away.

USC forced a Penn State punt and got the ball back with a minute and 59 seconds left, but even then, trailing 49-42, the Trojans needed to go 80 yards to tie the game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, though, has a way of bailing the Trojans out when all seems lost.

He was named the team’s starting quarterback after USC got off to a 1-2 start, and his MVP performance on Monday showcased why. Aided by a pair of Penn State defensive pass interference penalties, Darnold guided the Trojans on a three-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a 27-yard strike to sophomore Deontay Burnett that tied the game 49-49.

At that point, there were two likely scenarios: (1) Penn State uses the remaining time to win it in regulation, or (2) overtime.

Neither happened.

USC safety Leon McQuay intercepted Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley on the ensuing drive and returned it 32 yards to the Penn State 33-yard line to give USC a chance to win it in regulation. Boermeester missed on two earlier attempts, but this time his kick sailed true.

Darnold, who grew up in Southern California dreaming about playing in this game, finished 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns in a performance that won't soon be forgotten. Neither will Burnett's. He had a career-high 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns to help erase a brilliant second half by Penn State.